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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

eFolio and Home Access

Never have there been such pressures to encourage the communication of information from and to the home.

Government expects it, teachers need it, parents want it, friends and relatives are impressed, the kids love it! So why make it so complicated?

eFolio is designed to overcome all the complexities of the wide variety of Learning Platforms, transition between institutions, and different hardware configurations. – And what’s more, there is no extra work for technicians!

eFolio is a very simple to use e-Portfolio tool especially tailored to the needs of young students, whatever their ability. In fact the developers of eFolio believe that the best place to start using eFolio is certainly by Key Stage 3. – eFolio can even be used by pre-school staff and parents.

e-safety has always been a concern of the eFolio team and especially for our younger or vulnerable users. In the first instance eFolio is ‘locked down’ so that only the child and teachers can see what is placed in the eFolio. As the student progresses through KS3 and on to KS4 they will learn how to set the eFolio permissions as to who can see their work, completed or not.

To begin with, just consider eFolio as a place to celebrate ‘best practice’ - the things that the youngster is proud of, whether sport, music, coursework, family activities or clubs etc. Any digital artefacts can be copied by ‘drag-n-drop’ to pages in eFolio.

As the young student gets older he/she will probably choose a different template design, colour scheme or font size. This very much supports the concept of ‘ownership’ of the e-Portfolio. New menu items can be easily added as can ‘sub-menus’.

Any form of text documents, scanned images or ‘rich media’ can be uploaded or hyperlinks can be put in place to other repositories. It’s just like owning your own website, but without the problems of understanding HTML or CSS. eFolio acts as a ‘gatekeeper’ in that the student must decide what to put in the portfolio rather than use it as a total repository for everything!

Reflection can be a very profound learning experience whereby students learn to compare what they did several years ago with what they can do now. Why students select certain artefacts and not others, why children see something as significant for them, and possibly not their ‘best’ work, is all about understanding oneself.

Managing a large number of courses and modules needs clarity of mind. The e-Portfolio is an excellent ‘organiser’ in this context, enabling the young student to focus upon what is important in each subject area, particularly when it comes to saying ‘This collection is what represents the Real ME.’

As young people progress through KS3 and on to KS4 much soul searching can take place about ‘options’ for KS4. Invariably this includes time spent in studying Careers advice, developing PLTS, Health & Social Studies and a host of pastoral issues.

Many times such deliberations may prompt the student to ask for advice from ‘another adult’, a parent or mentor - the e-Portfolio again can become the perfect place for the virtual benefits of ‘sitting alongside’ one another and chatting through issues with invited members. For staff, a simple messaging system can warn when new work is ready to be assessed.

Towards the end of KS4 again, students will have to face several situations in which they have to represent themselves, either to Work Experience employers, actual Job Applications or applications to move on to further study in a 6th-form or FE college. In each case eFolio is the ideal tool for representing the student. Again, eFolio is also specifically developed for the 14-19 Diploma courses!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

eFolio v 2 has arrived!

Well, we've been waiting quietly but excitedly for the arrival of our new baby! Well, not new as such and not so much of a 'baby' - it's really very big once you get to know it! The 'new' eFolio might on the surface look very much like it did before BUT the whole of the 'back office' working has been revamped to meet the needs of the new web 2.0 generation.

Everything you thought you knew about eFolio is about to change… and it is not only because the look and feel of the interface are different.

Electronic portfolio users have often focused on the eFolio tools and resulting portfolio sites. This has, in the past, created a gap in development and process. Unfortunately that gap has directly impacted the value portfolios can play in the assessment of learning. We often refer to the gap as “portfolio thinking”…representing elements of design and planning needed by both educators and learners. I look forward to what users will experience in filling that gap as they discover what the new version of eFolio tools are positioned to contribute to learning communities, social learning, and teaching strategies.

Start now by thinking about content as discrete objects that can be used in many ways within a single portfolio. The simplest example may be found in the data fields identifying self, a peer or professional contact. Change your thinking that those “contact-related” fields create items about a person that contribute only to a “Contact Me” or “References” page.

A contact may now be identified as someone who contributed to your work on a project or was a mentor in an activity. A contact might be identified as an employer associated with a past job or a professor who evaluated your class work. As such, the contact can be linked to an artifact, event, or affiliation. Resulting content combinations will, in turn, be available as items posted on the pages of your portfolio site.

The difference is that each content object (such as a contact) also remains uniquely available for re-use in a different context on a different page or within the pages of an alternative site. The possibilities are endless when expanded to address the advantage of owning multiple personal portfolio sites as part of one account (e.g., Personal, Career, Coursework, Work Experience) or the existence of shared sites available to members of defined groups and learning cohorts.

Perhaps this is what excites me most, that objects can be re-used for different audiences and for different purposes - and all at the same time!

Join us over the next several weeks as we begin to discover how eFolio’s expanded toolset will promote your experience with the power of portfolio thinking in a content/object-oriented interface.

Thanks to Lynne Groves at Minnesota for much of this text.